Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Stitching For His Glory

August of 2008 found me terribly full of nervous energy.  We were about to go through Anna’s cardiac catheterization and I needed something to keep my hands busy during the procedure.  I sat on the morning of the 25th slowly stitching ornaments for our family’s front foyer tree.  I knew that this one tree in our house at Christmas adorned old glass balls that Anna would find completely impossible not to touch.  Due to that fact I knew I needed to replace those fragile ornaments with cloth one’s to withstand whatever grabbing we would have to work through that first Christmas together.

 As I stitched the wreath and added the red beads I had no idea how my life would take a drastic change and the ornaments would become the symbol of something totally different.  Each of the ornaments in this pattern pack has a meaning that I know was given to me as comfort by the Holy Spirit.  The cross; a sign of the sacrifice made unselfishly on my behalf.  The wreath, a symbol of the never ending love our heavenly Father has for each one of us.  The dove, a declaration of peace….peace that goes beyond all understanding and guides us here on earth.   The star,  the beacon that shone that very night in Bethlehem to show the way & to announce the arrival of the Messiah.   At the moment I thought my life would be forever shattered my hand was being guided by the Holy Spirit to give me a message.  The message that I am forever held & loved by Jesus……without beginning or end….just like the wreath ornament.  The full impact of its dear meaning really  overwhelms  me every December as I bring out the ornaments.  Just recently I took out the template (pattern) of the wreath to cut for gifts and  I realized the last time my hand touched any of the templates my Anna was still alive.  She had watched me make the patterns and cut the fabric to make several that I kept and gave even last year.  Then through the tears its meaning rang clear……I am loved forever without end…by my Savior and my precious daughter.  She will be waiting for me to share eternity. 

Eternity is what I stay focused on with every year that passes.  I am sad every year in August and that is O.K.  I am allowed to be.  The contentment in the blessing I call my life still keeps me going even in the sadness.  That contentment comes from only the Lord.  So I will start making ornaments to give as gifts later this year & will praise God with every stitch and thank Him for the gift of Anna.  To His glory I raise my hands today!

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Only A Mist?

We are looking at the first financial quarter of 2011 and see that we can again open up to accepting applications. It has been a year since we could do that.  I am so excited about this opportunity.  Unfortunately,  I am also heavy with thoughts on how we continue to give grants when we are not receiving donations?  I prayed very hard before our first fund raising effort asking God to show me the direction to go.  Back then I was still pretty “raw” in my loss of Anna.  The pain was subsiding, but the energy level was just not there to start raising money.  I will be honest in telling you that  I do not know if the “running shoes” needed to fund raise are ready to be worn even now.  I fear God has expectations of me that I can not fulfill.  I am not a salesperson in any fashion.    I tried to sell Southern Living at Home for the last few years and I have stunk at it.  It is now only a hobby of mine.  I do not have the badger and pressure tactics needed for serious fund raising.   So we have not been able to even sell 1/2 of the 500 cookbooks we had published.  I do not think we have even sold enough to cover the cost of the books.  I tried so hard to market our cookbook for holiday sells but the sells were limited.  I tried at a craft show and broke even with the booth cost but no profit really was made.

I am frustrated and do not know what to do!  We have tried to market our fund raising efforts and no one seems interested.  I feel like I have failed.  I really felt the fatigue of failure when we reached out to our  past grant recipients.  We only  asked for their help in spreading the word of our efforts.  We did not expect anyone to donate money.  We just wanted AFF’s button to be placed on their website/blogs, maybe a mention of our past grant and how we were selling cookbooks as a fundraiser….anything,  and not one family responded.  We are a very small non-profit and my hope was that it was the Lords plan to have us continue to glorify Him by helping families bring their specially made babies home.  Even if we only awarded one grant a year.  I feel like that might not even be possible at the rate we are going.  How do you emphasize to people the importance of assisting families in their special needs process that do not “get” adoption when the families that do “get it” do not even respond?  If anyone has an answer I would love to hear it!  I feel like I am letting Anna down.  Will Anna’s Forever Families be a small non-profit that ran for a season and then disappeared like the mist spoken of in the fourth chapter of James?  Is the handful of families that we have given monetary grants to going to be the only one’s we were able to help?  I do not know and right now I find myself somewhat lost to the answer.  I feel so strongly that the Lord has great plans, but where does AFF fit in those plans?  I am praying and petitioning and trying very hard to listen to His voice for an  answer.   So as wonderful as it is to once again be able to accept applications for grant assistance this quarter, there is a big, black rain cloud hanging in the horizon.  Will this be the last quarter of giving?  Will I have 400 cookbooks in my garage for years to come?  How did it not work?  How is the importance of continuing God’s kingdom through sweet, special needs orphans so overlooked?  Oh, if I had lots of money.  Oh, if I had talents that could make lots of money.  Oh, the things I would do and the children I would help. 

This New Year I am struggling with where I now fit and my place in this HUGE undertaking.   I want our family who has been blessed beyond comprehension with the Lord’s bounty to be in His complete obedience.  How do we keep from being only a mist?  Where does He want Anna’s Forever Families to go?  I pray that some of you that read this will feel the call to forward this to those who can help by giving………not just forward this to those who need assistance.  We need people to spread the word of our mission not just the potential of money. 

 Blessings to you in 2011!  I pray the Lord will light your path and guide every step of this New Year.

James 4:14-15 “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                        In Him,
JoAnna

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

Praising His Name on the 5th Anniversary

So I have been posting about fund raising and trying so hard to promote and sell our cookbook but I have to stop today and just praise God.  I will be leaving this house in a few minutes and I will be visiting my daughter’s grave.  It is a simple grave marked with a small marker with her name, the year of her birth and the year of her death.  It is small and simple since it is placed on a small mausoleum and there is no room for fancy or elaborate markers.  Much like little Anna’s life…..small, simple, not too flashy but sweet, and pure. 

 I am the mother of three precious children.  I am blessed to have two of them with me and just kissed them a moment ago as they excitedly left for the Franklin Christmas parade with their Poppa.  This has been an annual tradition for Grace & Tony but this year will be extra special with Gabriel riding on Tony’s shoulders and receiving the candy thrown from the floats.  In my mind today I see my third child skipping down a long gold paved sidewalk with her sweet smile just shining as bright as the sidewalk.  She is happy and she is whole.  She is healthy and completely content.  I sit here and type this to keep me focused on what I feel is the part of today that is the most important.  Praising God that I was a part of His plan for this precious miracle.  Praising God that I know the truth that I will see her again and that I will spend eternity with Him & Anna starting on the day He has planned.  So I have Peace!  I know the Truth!

  1/2 world away I visualize a woman who does not have peace.  I visualize her lost today in thought of the day she gave birth to a little, bitty, baby girl who was having trouble breathing.  I visualize her remembering the night a month & a half later that she or someone on her behalf left this baby at the children’s hospital on the 4th floor.  The feeling of complete panic and utter loss as she left that child.  The feeling she must feel today…..the gut wrenching sadness of not knowing what happened to her child.  So I pray hard today.  I focus on one thing and that is asking God to send the Holy Spirit to give this woman peace.  Peace of mind and heart.  Peace that she will not understand but that will allow her to breath today.  I pray that by His hand she would come to know Him.  If she does by some chance know Him, that she also know her abandoned child is safe & loved by His arms. 

 I am so blessed today.  I know the hurt and loss of Anna.  Imagine if I had never gotten to hold her or kiss her or smell her or rub lotion on her after a bath.  Who would I have been without her imprint on my life?  I am the daughter of the Highest of Kings and I carry His hand print and signature on my life.  Being Anna’s momma taught me and is teaching the importance of that everyday and for that I am so grateful.  I love you Anna.  Momma misses you so!  I wish I could have seen you blow out candles in honor of your birthday but it was not meant to be.  So I honor the day you were born by praising our Father & asking Him to cover your birth mother in peace.   

JoAnna

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Hope Now

Every time I hear “Hope Now” by Addison Road I will think of this time in our lives. I know that “Hope Now” tells of the new place we have arrived. We have held on to hope as our life line and now we find ourselves just days away from another journey that God has lead us to…the path to Gabriel. To have Gabriel’s Travel Approval from China to come on Anna’s cath day is such a message from heaven to be joyous in all things and to never give up hope. The hope and promise of having a sibling for our Grace rang loud and clear from above.

The Lord continued to show us how in tuned He was to our pain & loss last week by having Tony and I run into not one, but two grant recipients of Anna’s Forever Families. Sunday we stopped by the grocery store on our way home from church and I saw one of our recipients in the deli section with her beautiful daughter. I approached her to introduce myself and I just wanted to give her a hug. While chatting another woman walked up. As we were introduced we both realized who each other was and we embraced. What a gift…..to meet both of those ladies and know that once again the Lord was showing us up close and personal the hope in His plan…..He heard the cry of my mother’s heart and answered with a physical confirmation of the beauty in His plan. Anna’s Forever Families is such a small non-profit and it has broken my heart that we have not been able to provide grants for going on three quarters but I am holding on to the hope that the Lord will too work this out in His perfect timing. He spoke that to my heart loud & clear Sunday as I embraced each of those women. During this frenzied time of preparation to bring our son home, I am also thinking of the fund raising cookbook. It should be on it’s way any day now. I pray that it is God’s will for it to be a complete hit and sell every copy as quickly as possible so we can give grants the last quarter of 2010. Please feel free to mention our fund raiser for AFF on your blogs & websites. I would love if everyone who follows us would post AFF’s button to help spread the word.

Hope Now. We have never lost sight of it in our walk the last two years. Some days it felt like we could barely hold on to it and our strength was failing. Those are the days the Holy Spirit held on to us. So as we approach another huge leap of faith in the journey to bringing Gabriel home we know no matter what we have hope…. now & always. We have fought the battle and even though we are bruised and battered the Lord carried us and we refused to give up. I sit today typing with a smile of peace and happiness…..I am so at peace and the Lord has given me that. What a beautiful gift. Some people wait their entire lives to feel complete peace and I sit here at 40 and feel His warm embrace and know I will always have hope as long as that hope lies in my Lord and Savior. To His glory and honor I write this today. I love you so my sweet Jesus! I thank you with all my heart for the peace I feel and for saving my life with your love.

Hugs,
Jo

1 Thessalonians 5:18
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

The Call Of The Orphan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
James 1:27
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

The cursor is blinking this morning more than I would like.  I am trying to find the words to explain how God is laying the above scripture heavily on my heart right now.  

In August 2008 we were panicked over how we could show the world that loosing Anna was not something God did “to us” but something He was “working in us”.  The night before Anna’s funeral service we prayed, wept and prayed more on how to touch every person who attended.  We wanted to only reflect  the glory of God and have that forever change them as they left her service.  God has shown us in so many detailed ways that we succeeded that day and that He is pleased with us.  We still felt He wanted us to do more.  Men and women have always handled things differently and Tony and I are no exception to that fact.  Women feel and need to work through the emotions of “feeling” something, so I blogged our whole first year about the uphill, gut wrenching grief.  It was therapy for me as I walked through the valley in the shadow of death.  Men want to “fix” something or take “action” in some way to move the scales back to a balanced position.  I believe this is something God breathed into Adam long ago.  So was breathed the dream of Anna’s Forever Families into Tony’s soul.  The truth is AFF started for Tony as a way to get out of the bed every morning after loosing his sweet baby.  He prayed for God to give him the strength and God answered with a direction for his grief and anguish.  That is how we walked together through the valley.  Yes, we were on two different tracks but those tracks were on the same road.

Anna’s Forever Families is now established as a non-profit and has awarded grants for two financial quarters.  There is so much need for assistance in this world and it is at times like this morning I wish I had the resources to help each and every hand that is open and needs filling.  The fact is I do not personally have those type of resources in my possession.  AFF started with the assistance of people who shared the vision of helping the orphan in need.  Specially made individuals who were touched by Anna and how special she was.  They saw Anna as a waiting child who like a shooting star left so quickly but changed the view of their horizon with her presence.  Tony met in detail to explain how God was calling him specifically to help the special orphan who is born with issues so many see as “too much” to handle.  That is how AFF was blessed to start.  People called together by the story of a special little girl and the desire to do something to help children just like her.  The goal was set to glorify God by stewarding resources He provided to needy families during the course of their journey to adopt their own wonderfully made child. 

In the near future AFF sees an obstacle.  This morning my prayer is that this organization will continue to cling to the above verse and stay focused.  AFF does not want to loose hope from the looming bottom line.  I pray for His peace.  Peace in the faith He will continue to provide resources to Anna’s little legacy.  That He will speak to peoples hearts on AFF’s behalf  to continue to help the calling orphan.   

Anna’s Forever Families is and will be administrated by donations of the heart and that is something God has made very clear.  We know that AFF will never be a “capital campaign” non profit.  Even though AFF is small it can help make a difference.  The difference starts with a small, still voice that God sends out to hearts that says…..”you need to help.”  The world is polluted with the things to “want” or “desire” and this distracts from God’s call.  The enemy in all his glory loves when he can distract.  When God’s word is meditated on day and night, verses just like James 1:27  can be heard through the distractions. 

The desire is to never have to post on this site that AFF does not have the funds to award families for a financial quarter.  The only way AFF can do that is with help.  The need for people to quiet the pollution of  worldly distractions all around them and hear the voice to help.  The call of the orphan……..the special made orphan, the call of the Father.  Anna’s Forever Families is striving to have that orphans call not only heard but with help take them one step closer to their forever family.  To do that AFF needs your help.  Change not only your life by seeing through the world and all it’s distractions but by being a part of changing the life and world of a waiting orphan. 

I pray the cry for help this morning echo’s not my words but our Heavenly Fathers.  May peace and many blessings be given to you in 2010!

In His Service,
Jo

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Anna’s Forever Families……where faith takes a family one step closer to forever.

The title is one that I had to share. We had to sit and answer some questions for the web designer and the Lord just put the above title in my head. I just love it. I hope to use it along with our logo every chance I get.

This evening is quiet and rainy. Grace & Tony just left about 45 minutes ago to go on a father/daughter adventure to Dollywood tomorrow. I love how he takes time off when I need him to and wants to really do something with Grace. This is the first time Grace was a little teary to leave me. She has been rather clingy here recently. I honestly do not know why. She has been off for fall break and got to go to work with me the last two weeks but I really wanted her to do something fun so Tony had thought up a trip to Gatlinburg. I pray even though tomorrow is supposed to be rainy that they enjoy their time together and that our heavenly Father will protect them in their travels to & from.

So I am catching up with the blog and just listening to the rain. Last time I wrote I was having one of those days/nights. I do not even call them “bad” days anymore because they are not even 24 hours long….just a brief moment of longing for the one that is no longer with you. It is what it is. No more no less. Now just a permanent fact of life. I now know just to go with it. Really everything now just has that feel to it. If you have no control over it then you hand it over to the One who does and “go with it”. We are encountering some of that already with this adoption–but that is something I might write about later. Right now I want to tell you about the first recipients of a grant from Anna’s Forever Families. The grant was awarded the end of September to one of the most inspiring families. The St.John family is in the middle of the most amazing journey. A journey of pure hope & faith. A journey that God is cradling with His mighty hand. You see His fingerprints over every inch. I urge you to read part of their story below:

In 2006 we traveled to China to adopt Sophie and had the amazing opportunity to visit the Taiyuan China Care Home to drop off donations. While there we met Jun Ping and Duo (and Mia Hope).

Jun Ping and Duo were best of friends, like true brother and sister. They played together, helped each other and even showed some jealousy when a toy we gave Jun Ping was picked up by Duo. We were able to go with them to the park and played with both of them for a while.

One of the volunteers commented, “I’d love to see them adopted together.” Unknown to anyone except that volunteer, we had already put in the paperwork to seek approval to adopt Jun Ping. I asked the status of Duo’s paperwork and was told it hadn’t even been started. It seemed that perhaps the orphanage didn’t think he was adoptable. My 11 year old son who was in China with us stated “If you adopt a little boy, I want it to be Duo.”

The day after our adoption of Sophie was finalized, we received pre-approval to adopt Jun Ping. One year later we returned to China to bring her home. We call her Maddie Jun and she has never forgotten her friend, her brother, Duo.

We continued to look for Duo’s file using what few China contacts we had to keep us updated on it’s progress. Finally in 2008 we were told his file had been submitted. We put out word to adoption agencies and yahoo groups to help us watch for his file. No one could find it. Finally in early 2009 a friend wrote to me and recommended a specific agency. We had already tried another highly recommended agency and they would only tell us his file hadn’t been assigned yet. We knew that. We wanted to know more. Where was it? Why hadn’t it been assigned?

The second highly recommended agency took the ball and ran with it. Within days they responded letting us know his file was at the CCAA. They asked, “Do you want to adopt him?” My answer was a quick, emphatic “Yes! Yes! YES! A thousand times YES!” and there was much celebrating at our house that night. We decided it would be best to hold off telling Maddie Jun as she would never understand the timeline of the adoption process. When we talk about Duo in reference to the adoption process we refer to him as David so she doesn’t know.

Maddie prays for Duo every night. She often asks why we can’t get in an airplane and go get him. “You went to China for me and Sophie. Go for Duo. Be his mama.” Lately she has been talking to the moon…to Duo. She says things like, “Duo Guess what?!? I have mama, daddy, Matthew, Sophie, Olivia & Albert (our dogs)! Family Duo! I not forget you. I pray Jesus find you mama and daddy. Jesus loves you Duo!” A few days ago in the midst of tears she told me “Duo is sad. He wants mama and daddy.” She has also said “Why you no get him?” When I tried to explain it just didn’t work that way she said “I go. I adopt him. I adopt him to me sister!” (meaning, she will be his sister.)

She talks about their favorite game (hide-and-seek) and what game she wants to show him (rock-scissors-paper). She talks about their favorite foods (shrimp and peas) and what foods she wants to give him (pizza). She says “I can play with Duo and pretend he has mama and daddy.” “How do you pretend that?” I asked. “The daddy goes to work and the mama holds you!” she answered. We have decided to wait until we receive Travel Approval to tell Maddie the news. I plan on video-taping it. I can hardly wait to bring this much wanted and loved son and brother home. We love you Duo.

Incredible to think that Maddie does not even know how close she is to having Duo with her. I can not even begin to tell how you how it feels to be a small part of their story. Here is a picture(click to enlarge) of Maddie & Duo(David).

I can not wait till they are finally together as a forever family. I can tell you that I know that my Anna is happy in heaven tonight knowing her Momma & Poppa wanted to try to give back a portion of the love she gave us. No amount of money provided in a grant could ever come close but oh, as parents who have been there, every bit helps. It is with such pleasure & honor that I can say that James & Marjorie St.John and their dear family are the first recipients of what I pray will be many grants to follow from Anna’s Forever Families. God is so Good! Even through the pain & loss there is so much Good! God Bless & thanks for stopping by…..I promise to write more soon!

In His Hands,
Jo

James 1:17
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all He created.”

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Legacy of Love

The above picture is similar to the rainbow we witnessed just last night. Sunday, September 20Th. That day will stick in my head forever. It was the day that the Review Board of Anna’s Forever Families met to do the final review & award recommendations for this financial quarter. The first quarter of giving. We have a family & we have an award. I will not go into specifics but the board deliberated through serious discussion on how to award this quarter and after their meeting the rainbow gave them a much needed sign of approval. A sign that I feel told us that our Lord and my sweet Anna were pleased with the family selected. I will post later the specifics of the award and applicant family who received it but it is a story that touches the very heart of you. The review board now will forward everything to the Board of Directors for the issuing of the grant. One thing that was made a reality to us in this new journey of passing Anna’s legacy is that we can not award every applicant, every quarter. That was a hard reality to accept but one that we realized needed to be faced from the very beginning. We have to keep the focus on the need base of each family in addition to promoting special needs adoption. Just like many other things some families needs are more than an others. Numbers never lie and it gave the board a clear decision. It was clear that our recipients are very much in need of our assistance and that they exhibit as a family the love that we want to help pass on through our foundation. The all consuming, sometimes seems completely mind boggling love that God puts in the hearts of special need adoptive parents. I can see my Anna smiling and oh, the glow that gives our family. The peaceful glow and serenity that only comes from ordained stewardship. So I am anxiously waiting for the directors to release the letter of award & the grant. Our first giant leap to continuing the legacy that was spoke of the very day we laid our Anna to rest. The Legacy of Love……..what a beautiful circle it makes.

In Him,
Jo

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

So We Begin!

I had to share this very awesome & sweet moment. The moment that the 1st grant application was sent to a potential family. We finally got our application packet completed and it was sent just moments ago to our first family. I can not even express to you how this makes my heart soar. I am so proud. So proud that I am Anna’s momma and I can pass on her love in such a way. No, it is not like getting a piece of her back. I do not want a piece of her……I want all of her and one day I will have it. Until that day I will just share her beauty and the beauty of my Savior. The beauty of love. Love to fellow parents who have been called to adopt with out certainty a child that needs every type of love & help. A child that will fulfill in them what they do not even acknowledge is missing. Why? Because you have no idea what it all means until they hand that precious being over to you. You glimpse heaven & see the reflection of the Maker’s face everyday in their smile.

So, tonight we begin. Yes, this is a humble beginning but it is the first step. We have some funds right now to award and now we need the families. So if you have a friend or a friend of a friend have them contact us at annasforeverfamilies@yahoo.com
for now. Our website should be running by mid October we pray so for right now they will have to email us and we will forward the application packet. S.B., thank you again for connecting us with our first applicant family. You have such a beautiful heart my friend and I know you will be an intricate part of AFF’s success(by passing our little foundation along to others).

Oh, it is just so exciting even talking about this. Things are good! We are looking ahead and praying about our future too. We are waiting to hear that still, small voice. He speaks to me daily but sometimes it is hard to make out His instructions. Actually, I do not know if it is hard to make them out or if I am scared to death to attempt them. Another crossroad within another leap of faith. Are we ready? Can we adopt again? My brain buzzes with all the unknowns. To quiet it all I just softly repeat, “Thank you God! Thank you!” He knows the rest and the rest will be made clear. Until that clarity I will just bask in the warm glow of Anna’s Forever Families. This is truly an exciting time. We continue to thank each of you for your prayers…especially last week. Each one carried us. God bless you for them!

In His Hands,

Jo